Whether you have a small yard in the suburbs or 200 acres in the country, you have the right to keep your land free from trespassers. If you see people on your property without permission, whether they’re cutting through the yard to go to the store faster or fishing in your private pond, you want to keep them out, if, for no other reason than to avoid liability issues. Is it effective to post signs against trespassing in North Carolina? If so, is there a difference in the type of signage you should use? Our criminal law attorneys in Raleigh are providing some clarity into this issue.
Defining Trespassing in North Carolina
First, let’s consider what trespassing is. In North Carolina, there are two levels of this offense: first degree and second degree, and are defined by the North Carolina General Statute, N.C.G.S. 14-159 as:
- First Degree Trespassing: An individual enters or remains on enclosed or secured property (such as a locked storage building or a heavily fenced-in area) is charged with this more serious crime.
- Second Degree Trespassing: An individual enters or remains on a property after being told to go by the occupant, owner, or authorized person, or there are signs posted with notice to not enter the premises.
Second degree trespassing is the law we’re looking at regarding whether or not a sign will keep people off your property from a legal perspective.
Laws Related to No Trespassing Signs
For the express purpose of keeping people off your property, there really aren’t concrete rules in place. There’s no specific language you must use on a sign. In fact, the law only specifies that a sign “that is posted in a manner reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders with notice not to enter the premises” is sufficient. This includes:
- No trespassing
- Private property
- Posted: Private property
- Property is protected by video surveillance
- No trespassing or loitering
- Trespassers will be prosecuted
However, property owners are required to give sufficient notice, meaning the sign must be placed in a visible and obvious location. This can include your fence around your home, hung on a tree in your front yard, nailed to a post in your front yard, or placed on your front porch railing. The key is that it must be visible from the road, including making sure the lettering is plain and cleanly visible.
Signs to Prevent Hunting and Fishing on Your Land
Protecting your land against unwanted hunters or fishers does have more specific information related to posting signs. Taken directly from N.C.G.S. 14-159.7 you may:
“place notices, signs, or posters on the property. The notices, signs or posters shall measure not less than 120 square inches and shall be conspicuously posted on private lands not more than 200 yards apart close to and along the boundaries. At least one such notice, sign, or poster shall be posted on each side of such land, and one at each corner thereof, provided that said corner can be reasonably ascertained. For the purpose of prohibiting fishing, or the taking of fish by any means, in any stream, lake, or pond, it shall only be necessary that the signs, notices, or posters be posted along the stream or shoreline of a pond or lake at intervals of not more than 200 yards apart.”
You can also use purple paint (yes, it must be purple) to delineate a no hunting/fishing space by placing:
“Purple paint marks on trees or posts around the area to be posted. Each paint mark shall be a vertical line of at least eight inches in length, and the bottom of the mark shall be no less than three feet nor more than five feet from the base of the tree or post. The paint marks shall be placed no more than 100 yards apart and shall be readily visible to any person approaching the property. For the purpose of prohibiting fishing, or the taking of fish by any means, in any stream, lake, or pond, it shall only be necessary that the paint marks be placed along the stream or shoreline of a pond or lake at intervals of not more than 100 yards apart. “
Keeping Children Off Property
If your primary issue is keeping children off your property, the issue is more complicated. In North Carolina, children aren’t held to the same standards related to trespassing as adults are, meaning a sign saying “Private Property” may not be enough to keep you from being liable if a child gets hurt, nor can you prosecute a child for being on your land uninvited.
Also, it’s important to be aware of the idea of the “attractive nuisance” which recognizes your responsibility to stop children from accessing an area of your property that they may be “attracted” to or likely to draw their attention. This could include a pond, large holes, dirt piles, fallen trees, machinery, piles of wood, or other areas of your property. To minimize your liability, consider removing the attractive nuisance or securing it by setting up a fence around it and keeping that fence well-maintained.
Contact Us to Learn More About Trespassing Laws in North Carolina
If you are concerned about unauthorized or unwelcome people being on your property, but you’re not sure the best way to legally stop them, we can help. Also, if someone has trespassed and has caused damage, you may have a civil case on your hands. To learn more, reach out to us today at 919-615-2473 or fill out the form below to get started.
Information presented on this website should not be construed as formal legal advice or the formation of an attorney-client relationship. Additionally, any email sent to Kirk, Kirk, Howell, Cutler & Thomas, L.L.P. or any of its lawyers at the email addresses set forth in this website will not create an attorney-client relationship.
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